White Sox, Jesse Crain agree to three-year contract

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Peter Gammons, now of the MLB Network and MLB.com, is reporting that free agent reliever Jesse Crain has reached agreement on a three-year contract with the White Sox.

Crain, 29, posted a healthy 3.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 71 appearances for the Twins this past year, fanning 62 batters and walking only 27 over 68 innings of setup duty.  He may get a chance to save games in Chicago, a direct division rival of his former team.

The right-hander has improved the velocity of his fastball in each of the last four seasons, registering a 93.9 MPH average in 2007, a 94.1 MPH average in 2008, a 94.3 MPH average in 2009 and a career-high 94.8 MPH mark in 2010.  It’s rarely wise to hand a three-year contract to a reliever, but Crain at least appears to be in his prime.

No word yet on the total worth of the agreement.  Scott Downs got a three-year, $15 million from the Angels earlier this month and Joaquin Benoit scored a three-year, $16.5 million pact from the Tigers at the start of the offseason.  It may be something similar.

UPDATE: Crain’s new three-year deal is worth $13 million, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.  Not terrible, right?

Yankees sign top two draft picks

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The Yankees signed first-round draft pick Clarke Schmidt and second-round pick Matt Sauer on Saturday, per a team announcement. Schmidt, a right-hander from the University of South Carolina, is set to earn a signing bonus of $2,184,300. According to MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin, that’s much lower than the typical $3+ million allocated for a No. 16 overall pick. The opposite is true for Sauer, whose projected $2.5 million signing bonus tops the suggested $1.2 million reserved for a No. 54 pick.

Schmidt, 21, boasts an impressive four-pitch repertoire and profiles as a front-end or mid-rotation starter, according to reports from Yankees’ VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer and ESPN’s Keith Law, among others. He carried a 4-2 record through nine starts in 2017 and turned in a 1.34 ERA before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. While the Yankees won’t see him pitch at any level until late 2018, they seem confident in his makeup and ability to rebound over the next couple of years.

Fellow right-hander and Righetti High School senior Matt Sauer is a different story altogether. The 18-year-old hurler appears destined for the bullpen with a polished fastball-slider combo and a promising curveball and changeup. He dazzled on the mound this year, going 9-1 with an 0.98 ERA and two shutouts over 78 1/3 innings. While the Yankees seem most interested in his pitching skills, Sauer showed some pop at the plate as well, touting a .427 average with 24 RBI through 135 plate appearances.

Three A’s rookies hit their first big league home runs on Saturday

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The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.

Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:

Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:

In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.

The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.